ACADIA NATIONAL PARK ADVISORY COMMISSION MEETING
Acadia National Park Headquarters
Monday, June 04, 2018 1:00 pm
Jacqueline Johnston, Chair
Fred Ehrlenbach, Vice Chair
Ben Emory, Member
Dexter Lee, Member
Ben Worcester, Member
Matt Horton, Member
Ken Cline, Member
Ken Smith, Member
Paul Richardson, Member
G. Bruce Wiersma, Member
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent, ANP
Michael Madell, Deputy Superintendent, ANP
Rebecca Cole-Will, Chief of Resource Management, ANP
Stuart West, Chief Ranger
John Kelly, Management Assistant
Brian Henkel, Maine Natural History Association
Keith Johnston, Chief of Facility Management
Stephanie Clement, Conservation Director, Friends of Acadia
Don Kent, President & CEO, Schoodic Institute
Carol Woodcock, Representative, Senator Collins
Chris Rector, Regional Rep, Senator King
Members of the Public News
The Commission Chair called the meeting of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, Monday, June 04, 2018, 1:00 p.m. to order.
APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA
A motion was made to approve the agenda by Ken Smith; seconded by Ken Cline; all approved; no opposed.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES
A motion was made by Ben Emory to accept the minutes of the Advisory Meeting of March 12, 2018; seconded by Fred Ehrlenbach; all approved; no opposed.
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT – Kevin Schneider
Transportation Plan – Kevin Schneider
John Kelly shared a slideshow of Memorial Day weekend at Jordan Pond. Island Explorer buses were not yet operating.
Kevin Schneider gave an update on the status park’s Draft Transportation Plan. The idea behind this plan is to plan for the future so we can sustainably accommodate growth and park visitation. We are in the public comment period and are seeking public input on the draft plan and the direction for the alternatives. There have been many public engagement and outreach activities to inform the public about the draft transportation plan and preferred alternative(s). There were three Q & A sessions at the local libraries. These sessions were video-taped by Friends of Acadia and broadcast online with over 4,000 views. We held two public workshops, MDI & Schoodic, which were formal opportunities for public comments. There have been briefings with Mount Desert Board of Selectmen, Bar Harbor Town Council, State Dept. of Transportation, Office of Tourism, Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and we will be meeting with the Trenton Board of Selectmen, and the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce. We have met with business owners and local community members. It is a complicated plan and we are trying to explain it and address questions.
Adaptive management is a key piece of the preferred alternative. Adaptive management being we are going to find something, see how it works, and adjust it as necessary. If we see it is not working, we are going to try something else. It’s the idea that we continue to adapt; continue to learn. It is a long-term planning process and it will take years to implement it fully.
The preferred alternative allows visitors to choose how they access the park. There would be focused on management of three key parking locations, Jordon Pond parking lot, Cadillac Mountain, and Ocean Drive. An on-line app would be used for making reservations during peak seasons and times of day. Some reservations would be available for a short-term last minute reservation (48 hour in advance); other reservations would be available, maybe four months out. If one elects not to make a reservation, there are many other areas of the park not requiring the reservation system, i.e. Sieur de Mont or Bass Harbor Light, trails accessed along state highways, Carriage Roads accessed along state highways. Visitors can also take the free Island Explorer, taxi, hike or bike to locations. There are also opportunities to use rideshare platforms like Uber and Lift. You can take Uber, for example, from downtown Bar Harbor to Cadillac for about $15.00. With the advent of electric bikes, it is a great alternative to being in a motor vehicle on Park Loop Road. The plan calls for phasing out right lane parking gradually over time.
Another key component to the plan is building out Hulls Cove Visitor Center and the Gateway Center in Trenton. Hulls Cove functions as a park and ride facility for on-island visitors. The plan proposes doubling parking, and bringing the visitor center back down to grade. One concern of Bar Harbor is the possibility of park vehicles being pushed into town. The Gateway Center in Trenton is the Island Explorer’s hub and maintenance facility and the plan proposes to build it out as a park and ride center for traffic coming from off-island. Passengers arriving by large motor coaches can see exhibits, purchase park passes, and transfer to smaller buses for a tour of Acadia National Park. We would build out a visitor contact facility or information station. Part of the idea is this may be done in partnership with local Chambers of Commerce in the region as an inter-agency visitor center that serves the interest of all communities downeast.
There is a proposal for converting Liscomb Pit to a 120 car parking lot to access the Eagle Lake Carriage Road. Roadside parking along Eagle Lake Road would be eliminated. Parking at the boat ramp would be for boaters only. We are also looking at off-highway parking for Acadia Mountain to address concerns of parking on Rt. 102. We do not have a specific location in mind and welcome suggestions.
Reservation for parking will have a fee associated with it to cover the third party contractor fee (ex. $1- $1.50, depending on the requirements) and ANP for associated costs (.50-$1.00) to cover intelligent transportation systems, remote sensing of parking lots, and beyond that will offset additional Island Explorer service. So if we had a reservation fee of a $4.00-$5.50 price point, it could generate a significant amount of money to fund the Island Explorer in perpetuity.
The plan proposes to move to smaller sized tour vehicles that fit within the geometry of the roadway through long-term concessions contracts. Numbers of Island Explorer buses would increase.
There are no significant actions for Schoodic in terms of traffic management; we will continue to monitor.
June 13th, we will have an online public information session. The comment period closes June 26. Comments can be submitted by mail to the park or online at www.go.nps.gov/acadiaplan
After June 26, we will begin analyzing the public comments and group them into “Statements of Concern”. Each statement of concern will have a response. Then we will make any adjustments to the final preferred alternative and we will start building the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which we hope to release around the end of this calendar year. We hope to have a Record of Decision in early 2019. Then we have the implementation side of the Transportation Plan. The earliest to institute the reservation system is 2020. Concessions contracts will be out for bid in 2019 to start in 2020.
The consensus of the ANP Advisory Commission is it is too early to endorse the draft ANP Transportation Plan. They will relook at it after the comment period closes and the Transportation Plan is adjusted from review of the Statements of Concern. They are requesting the comments be made available for review by the Park Use Committee and reported to the full commission as general areas of concern. Park Superintendent commented that further research needed to be done to comply with this request because comments by individuals from the public may not be releasable to Commission members as they may not be considered public information.
Fred Ehrlenbach made the motion that the Park Use Committee meet with the park staff to discuss the public comments and report back to the full commission at the September meeting of the ANP Advisory Commission. Seconded by Dexter Lee; all in favor, no opposed.
Ben Emory made the motion that the commission take the position that it favors public comments on the Acadia National Park Draft Transportation Plan be available to the public. Seconded by Ben Worcester; all in favor, no opposed.
Pass Sales – Stuart West, Chief Ranger
Effective June 1, 2018, most national park passes will increase in price by $5.00, which is considerably less than originally proposed. The new prices of Acadia National Park passes are as follows:
Annual Pass $50.00 → $55.00
Vehicle 7-Day Pass $25.00 → $30.00
Person 7-Day Pass $12.00 → $15.00
Motorcycle 7-Day Pass $20.00 → $25.00
Senior Pass Fee $80.00 ($80 for lifetime pass or $20.00 per year for annual pass) Interagency Pass $80.00 (Annual pass for all agencies)
Commercial bus pass fees will remain as is for now, even though they are based on a per person fee. They will increase next October.
Report: Sieur de Mont Flooding, Winter 2018 – Brian Henkel
Brian Henkel is funded by Friends of Acadia through the Wild Acadia Program. Brian is an employee of the Maine Natural History Association. He is embedded here with our staff and through a partnership between the park and Friends of Acadia. He is doing work on hydrology and wetlands in the park. He has been studying the Cromwell Brook watershed as part of an analysis to look at the health of the watershed through Friends of Acadia. Brian presented a condensed version of this presentation on the events this winter which resulted in flooding and ice-over in the Great Meadow and Sieur de Monts area of the park.
Maintenance/Facility Updates – Keith Johnston, Chief of Facility Management
An update on facility projects we have completed:
1. Seawall Check-in Station
2. Cadillac Mountain parking lot paving
3. Repaired a blown water main at the visitor center
4. Continued rehabilitation of Rockefeller Hall at Schoodic
5. Wildwood Stables - rebuilding of the camping area
6. Finished construction of the Isle au Haut pier
Ongoing projects include:
1. Wild Garden’s irrigation system
2. Replaced the water tank at Blackwoods Campground
3. Almost done with the work on Duckbrook Motor Road Bridge (masonry repairs on the ocean side)
4. Tea lawn rehabilitation is almost complete at Jordon Pond House
5. Repairing Park Loop Road on Isle au Haut
Future projects include:
1. Working on replacing underground gas tanks at Headquarters.
2. Campground amphitheaters at Blackwoods and Seawall
3. Replacing the park’s radio tower
4. Schoodic water tower needs work
5. Upgrade to Hulls Cove Visitor Center
6. Striping parking and roads this fall
7. Roof system on Isleford Museum
Lurvey Spring Road is still closed due to winter/spring damage with icing events. There are a lot of washouts. It is passible for pedestrians and bicyclists, but not vehicles. We are down staff by 20% and not sure when the road will be opened. It is the last road not opened.
Elections of Commission Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary The positions stand as it. Reminder there is a three year cap on holding positions.
Chair – Jacqueline Johnston
Vice Chair – Fred Ehrlenbach
Secretary – Carolyn Gothard
The motion to accept the positions as is was made by Dexter Lee; seconded; all approved, no opposed.
Committee Membership Committee membership is thin. Please email Jackie Johnston is you have interest in serving on a particular committee, particularly the Lands and History Committees. The recommended membership per committee is 3-5 members.
Steven Smith, Resident of Otter Creek – Were any of the concerns from the Otter Creek Aid Society entertained on the Transportation Plan?
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent – We met with the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Mount Desert. I do not believe the Otter Creek Aid Society submitted comments on either the Scoping or the preliminary alternatives in 2015 or 2016. One question which came up at the Board of Selectmen meeting was if access to inholdings would be provided; one being the Fish House of Otter Creek. And yes, you would have access to those inholdings without a reservation. Obviously people need access to private property and will make arrangements for that. I encourage you to go online or submit your comments in writing.
Joey England, Resident of Bar Harbor – The Island Explorer is a great resource. Are their plans within the Transportation Plan to expand the Island Explorer to Memorial Day weekend or Cadillac Mountain?
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent – We desperately need the Island Explorer running Memorial Day. Yes, with new funding for the Island Explorer, we would be able to expand the length of season, potential routes, and the frequency of routes. Cadillac has never been served by the Island Explorer. The plan calls for ways to look at getting the Island Explorer to run to the top of Cadillac. Logistically it is not easy. If we have new revenue it gives us opportunities.
Sam Gains, Resident of Bar Harbor – What kind of feedback are you getting from the bicycling community? Specifically, bike lanes to get to the park, i.e. Route 233, and the adequacy of the Island Explorer bike shuttle.
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent – I have had some conversations with cyclists. I have chatted with a couple of the stores in towns who rent and sell bicycles. To me, one of the biggest obstructions for bicyclists is parking in the right lane. Hazards for cyclists are car doors opening and closing. By removing right lane parking, I think you will see an improvement. Having smaller vehicles, as far as motor coaches, would be an improvement. It would be great to have a separate pathway that goes from the town to the high school along 233.. That is beyond this scope of this plan but I think it is an interesting idea that deserves some exploration. I think when people see the separated path that runs along Route 3 to College of the Atlantic presently being constructed, they will realize it is a great idea. It would be a great amenity for cyclists. We just need to find a way to fund it.
Teri Peterson, Resident of Southwest Harbor – Are you going to be lumping in locals with summer seasonal people who are not year-round residents but own property and pay taxes? It takes away the spontaneity for local people to do things or enjoying the resources by having a reservation system.
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent – I don’t know. We want feedback on how to address this. It’s like our half-price pass sales; anyone local or from another state can purchase it. There is a suggestion of a ten pack/five pack for reservations to sell to locals.
Zack Kliger, Worked for Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. – We tender cruise ship passengers to the mainland. Are they proposing limits to number or size of large motor coaches going up to Cadillac?
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent – Yes, through the concessions contracts, we will have requirements for smaller sized vehicles which could fit within the geometry of the roadways so they would be about 30’ long vehicles(size of Oli’s Trolley). We would still accommodate the same number of passengers but through more vehicles running more trips. We already prohibit RV’s.
Claire Bingham, Owner of Taxi & Touring Fleet – Have operated under a CUA for the past 16 years with 10-15 vehicles a season. It has been unclear if the reservations system will work and who will have access to these reservations; if there is some kind of priority. I’m not asking for special treatment being a local but rather for equal treatment. If the park is going to embrace the larger corporations, like UBER & LIFT, to come into the park, I would only ask that they follow the same strict guidelines that the local companies have to adhere to. Those drivers should be required to obtain a CUA and the same A+ commercial liability insurance that we are required to have. This is already required in many towns, states and countries. In these places where UBER drivers are engaging in commercial areas or activities, in addition to the ride-sharing which is considered a different category, those drivers are required to be licensed and insured commercially. I believe operating in the park and providing tours would both be considered commercial activities. So I would strongly request that you treat the local people as equally as the large corporations that come in. Whether you are a billion dollar corporation or a two-car taxi company, everybody should follow the same guidelines and have to provide the same insurance qualifications. Our vehicles hold 6-14 people on average when they tour through the park where the riding-sharing tends to be two people. So if you are jumping on the UBER train and trying to reduce traffic, you are really increasing traffic or it is a zero sum gain and you are putting the local tax companies out of business and all the monies are going out of state to their corporate headquarters. Another mention, not many people around here that are locals and a lot of elderly do not operate with Smart phones and don’t have a credit card. Also the institutions we work with, like the Jackson Lab, the Bio Lab, and the High Schools, etc, do not operate with a smart phone and app situation; rather they operate with a purchase order. So if you jump on UBER and the tourist jump on UBER, you take the tourist money away from the local taxi system, the local year-round taxi service will disappear. A lot of people will be affected, not just those who lose their jobs but also those who depend on them. I would like us to be considered equally in the future of this plan.
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent – We met and have talked about some of those concerns. I appreciate you sharing them. You need to submit them in PEPC. There is a difference in taxi’s and tours. Taxis are point A to Point B. A tour is …., although plenty of taxi rides could be described as tours. They would be managed separately with tours under concessions contracts and taxi services under CUA. So you could have both. We would, absolutely, for the taxis want to level the playing field so that those all meet the same requirements. It would be helpful to understand from your perspective. If you enter your comments, such as insurance requirements, it would be helpful to us to have that information.
Stephanie Clement, Friends of Acadia – I just want you to know that Friends of Acadia will be submitting official comments but we are likely to support the preferred alternative C and bring up a few questions raised by the board and any minor suggestions and comments. We are supporting alternative C because we believe change is needed and we really support that the park has taking an adaptive approach that has been discussed this morning and we think it will be a good path forward.
The Commission Chair made closing comments. Please remember to send any suggestions for agenda items for the September meeting to Jackie Johnston.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 10th, 2018, 1:00 P.M. at Schoodic Institute, Winter Harbor, Maine, as published in the FEDERAL REGISTER.
Motion was made to adjourn, seconded, and approved by all. Meeting adjourned at 3:20 pm.
Minutes Submitted by Kathy Flanders
Last updated: November 23, 2018